by Pattie Sloan and Joan Flora: Two Teachers Challenging the Status Quo of the Classroom
In Part 1 of this post, we introduced the connection between The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim’s nobility, and today’s monstrosity: human trafficking. In this post, Pattie shares how she facilitates students’ conceptual understanding of the issue and how student gravitate to problem solving.
For a moment, imagine if students had personal connections to the curriculum we teach. Imagine if human trafficking in Huck Finn, were more than a picture of life on the Mississippi in antebellum South. And when looking at the map of modern-day slavery, we quickly realized the human tragedy rather than brushing it off with, “Toto, we are not in the deep South anymore!”
Nicolas Kristof ‘s article in The NY Times, The 21st Century Slave Trade, is tragic, but not personal.
Aware: Knowledge compels you to tell others
Dividing my class into teams, students adopt a different part of the world where slavery occurs:
- SE Asia
- United States
- West Africa
- Horn of Africa
- Eastern Europe
- Northern Africa
- South America and Haiti
Through their research, students create a class presentation through a PowerPoint, pamphlet or art piece, and a plan to end the slavery in their area.
- What is the major form of slavery in your area?
- What societal problems led to this inhumanity?
- What part of the economy relies on slave trade?
- What are the working conditions for the slaves in your area?
- What products are available to us because of this practice?
- What is being done to end the practice?
We contact organizations that are fighting human trafficking such as The Polaris Project, Oath, and Not For Sale.
We accessed books:
- Not For Sale by David Batstone
- In Our Backyard by Nita Belles
- Free the Children by Craig Kielburger
- A Crime So Monstrous by E. Benjamin Skinner
- Take It Personally by Anita Roddick
Dare: Make a difference!
My students move out of their academic comfort zones and create a plan to help alleviate the human trafficking in an area. Past plans include:
- supporting reforestation in Madagascar where the Eden Reforestation Project has almost eradicated human trafficking because women now have jobs and worth. And since each tree costs a dime to plant, we can impact the area.
- selling our specially designed t-shirts to free Dinkas held in Sudan
- speaking at the legislature in support of anti-human trafficking legislation
- speaking at middle schools to protect the middle school students.
- supporting the Janus Project in Portland that helps girls caught in the life on the streets
Making education personal creates an environment where the stakes are higher than the next test score. Caring creates an atmosphere that is charged with possibilities.
My teaching of Huck Finn radically changed as I realized that there is more to Mark Twain’s brilliance than a river and biting social satire. Huck Finn is about people and our humanity.